5 Important Front Desk Functions

T​he front desk of a medical office can be a very busy place. The front desk staff is essential for the smooth operations of the medical office.  The front desk staff usually consists of receptionists and/or medical assistants and depending on the size of the medical office one person may be both. Clinical duties aside, the front desk is responsible for five administrative duties:

  1. Greeting patients
  2. Answering and managing the telephone
  3. Scheduling appointments
  4. Interoffice communication
  5. External correspondence

1
Greeting Patients

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Greeting patients is not just about what you say, it's also about how you interact with patients.  The front desk is responsible for making patients feel welcome.  

The front desk is the first impression a patient receives when calling or visiting the medical practice. It is important that the front desk delivers exceptional customer service and be a positive representation of the medical practice.

Here are other ways of greeting patients:

  • Answers the phone while maintaining a polite, consistent manner using proper telephone etiquette
  • Keeps the reception area clean and organized
  • Registers new patients and updates existing patient demographics by collecting patient detailed patient information including personal and financial information
  • Facilitates patient flow by notifying the provider of patients' arrival, being aware of delays, and communicating with patients and clinical staff
  • Responds to patients', prospective patients, and visitor inquiries in a courteous manner

2
Manages the Telephone

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While answering the phone in a polite and consistent manner is a part of greeting patients, it is not the only duty of the front desk's telephone responsibilities.The front desk has the responsibility of receiving all incoming calls and also placing outgoing calls when needed.

  • Incoming calls: Incoming calls consists of patient calls, telemarketers, pharmaceutical reps, other physicians, and more.  The front desk must use proper telephone etiquette when managing the telephones using these communication skills: be an active listener, have good phone manners, screen calls, use tact, ask questions, and maintain confidentiality.
  • Outgoing calls: Sometimes the front desk may have to place outgoing calls to discuss a patient appointment, make outside appointments or referrals, or order supplies. As a representative of the medical office, it is just as important to use proper telephone etiquette.

3
Scheduling Appointments

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Effective scheduling is necessary for an excellent patient experience and a smooth patient flow. Most medical offices​ utilize scheduling software that makes scheduling appointments simple and easy. However, the front desk must be able to fill in cancellations or no-shows and become efficient at communicating changes in the schedule to patients and physicians.

4
Interoffice Communication

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The front desk of the medical office is like a communication hub. Most interoffice communication goes through the front desk especially when it involves any administrative tasks related to the patient.

To communicate most effectively clear and concise information is crucial. Whether in a memo, a written communication, through an inner office email, one on one interaction, or in a group setting, it is important to stick to the topic at hand and not stray off point.

Some basic skills needed for effective interoffice communication include:

  • Telephone etiquette
  • Customer service
  • Basic word and excel programs
  • Time management
  • Organization skills

5
External Communication

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External communication involves potentially communicating with vendors, other physician practices, insurance companies, and other businesses.  This may require making outgoing phone calls, typing professional letters, faxing and mailing letters.  

Knowledge of office procedures usually obtained from a certificate or Associates degree in a business program including administrative processes and procedures, claims processing, preparing patient charts, and basic computer skills. Basic administrative assistant skills and being able to adequately operate office equipment are important for front office success.

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